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SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule docks with International Space Station; Behnken and Hurley now safely aboard
SpaceX and NASA's Demo-2 historical test of launching a commercially built capsule (known as Crew Dragon) into low-Earth orbit on a Falcon 9 rocket can now officially be considered a rousing success for both humans and sequined dinosaurs.
After a flight that clocked in at just under 19 hours, mission astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley docked with the International Space Station ahead of schedule while floating over the northern border of China and Mongolia. It took them a little over three hours to actually go aboard due to a lengthy process of routine safety checks involving pressurization and leaks. Once they opened the hatch, Behnken and Hurley were warmly welcomed by station commander Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.
"I will tell you, the whole world saw this mission and we are so, so proud of everything you have done for our country and, in fact, to inspire the world," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during a welcome ceremony.
"It's obviously been our honor to be just a small part of this," Hurley said in response. "We have to give credit to SpaceX, the Commercial Crew Program, and, of course, NASA. It's great to get the United States back in the crewed launch business and we're just really glad to be on board this magnificent complex."
Crew Dragon, re-christened "Endeavour" by the two-man team, is the fifth ship to be currently parked at the station.
"It flew just like it was supposed to," Hurley explained when Senator Ted Cruz asked how the capsule handled. "We had a couple opportunities to take it out for a spin so-to-speak after we got into orbit last night and today about 20 minutes before we docked. My compliments to the folks back at Hawthorne and SpaceX for how well it flew. It's exactly like the simulator and we couldn't be happier about the performance of the vehicle."
If you were watching the SpaceX livestream, you may have noticed Tremor the zero-g indicator gently floating by the camera just before the Dragon Endeavour crew members moved into the station.
"While we're on board the space station with a new spacecraft, we do hope to put her through her paces and so, the good ship Endeavour is gonna get a lot of check-out over the next week or two here," Behnken said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to declare her operational and Doug and I will be able to take some burden off of Chris and his crew mates ... so that we can keep the space station operating at its peek possibility. We're looking forward to contributing in any way that we can."
There's no word on how long Behnken and Doug Hurley will remain on the ISS. They could be docked up there from 1 to 4 months before returning home with a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean. The first-ever crewed launch into orbit by a private company, Demo-2 is the first small step in creating an entire industry for casual space exploration.